All posts by Joann Vaughan

Ethical Discussions: Should parental responsibility be a choice? #spcethics

A Swedish political group, the youth wing of the Liberal Party, has proposed the idea that men should be given an equal say in whether or not they wish to become a parent, and be granted the option to abdicate any lawful responsibilities to an unborn child. The proposal suggests that a man be able to cut all legal ties and responsibilities to an unborn child up to the 18th week of a woman’s pregnancy.  A man who chose this option would not have any child support obligations, but he would also lose all parental rights to the child.

This suggested legal rejection of paternity would be irreversible, and the man would be required to renounce all parental duties and rights of any access to the child once it has been born. (Some news sources are referring to this proposed process as “legal abortion”).

This proposal would give men more choice in the decision of becoming a parent. According to Marcus Nilsen, chairman of Liberal Youth of Sweden (LUF) West, the establishment of this proposal would set up a system by which there is a clear legal decision about the role men are  required to play in their child’s life. This proposal has initiated quite a debate in Sweden over the roles of men and women in parenthood and the issue of voluntary parenthood.

In many countries, women have access to contraception and abortion, in addition to the option of placing their child for adoption. In countries such as this, parenthood has become a voluntary choice for women. Those in favor of the Liberal Party’s proposal argue that men do not have the same choice as women. In the United States, for example, if a woman conceives a child with a man and she decides to continue the pregnancy, the man will be legally responsible for paying child support for that child. He does not have the choice to abdicate his legal obligations to the child. The different options that men and women have create an imbalance with respect to the rights of men and women in this situation. Some argue that men should be given more options in the case of an accidental pregnancy.

The social consequences of requiring men to have a legal relationship with a child to which they did not agree may include the reality of men who legally are fathers but who do not have any relationship with a child beyond paying required child support. This may lead to negative consequences for all involved. The social consequences of allowing men to abdicate all legal responsibility for a child may be equally concerning to society. If the ultimate goal of society in these cases is to protect children, what would be the best solution?

Is the current system respecting the rights of men to have a choice in the decision to become a parent? Would it be more ethical for men to be given more control over when they become a parent?

Is it ethical to allow men the opportunity to abdicate legal responsibility for a child if they do not want to become a parent?

Finally, is there another way to handle the question of choice with respect to parenthood? Should fatherhood or parenthood have a different definition than the biological one currently used by our legal system?


Ethics students visit the Florida Holocaust Museum #spcethics

On Friday March 18, 2016, the Applied Ethics Department at St. Petersburg College sponsored a trip for students and faculty to the Florida Holocaust Museum.

florida holocaust museum boxcarApproximately forty students and faculty toured the museum and had the opportunity to listen to a presentation from Ms. Betty Grebenschikoff, who is a Holocaust survivor. Ms. Grevenschikoff is the author of the book, Once My Name was Sara, a memoir which describes her childhood in Germany and the flight of her family from Nazi Germany to avoid her father’s arrest by the Gestapo. She describes growing up in Shanghai and her experience of being interned in the Hongkew ghetto by the Japanese during World War II.

Dr. Adeniji Odutola, Chair of the Ethics Department, organized the trip. Dr. Odutola stated “The presentation and tour clearly show man’s inhumanity to man. The students were very appreciative that they were provided an opportunity to come to the Museum.”

The Florida Holocaust Museum is located at 55 5th Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


Ethical Discussions: The ethics of drug pricing

In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug Daraprim from Impax Laboratories, Inc. This drug is the standard drug used to treat a parasitic infection, toxoplasmosis, which can be life threatening for people with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS and cancer patients.

After acquiring the rights to Daraprim, Martin Shkreli, the founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet, an increase of almost 5,000 percent.

Immediately, infectious disease specialists protested this dramatic overnight increase in price. Doctors were concerned that the expense of the drug would force hospitals to use other treatments which would not be as effective.

This is not a new drug; the drug has been available for 62 years. What caused this dramatic increase in price? In some cases, when there is a shortage of a particular drug, price increases will result. However, in other cases, the increase in price is due to a strategy of companies which buy the rights to older drugs and turn them into a “specialty” drug. This is not an uncommon strategy.

Martin Shkreli, the founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, is a former hedge-fund manager. In an interview with CBS new, he defended the company’s actions, explaining that he is a capitalist and stating “I’m trying to create a big drug company, a successful drug company, a profitable drug company. We’re trying to flourish.”

After the protests against the dramatic increase in the price of Daraprim hit the news media, Martin Shkreli announced that he would reduce the price of the drug from $750 per pill However, he did not state at what new price the drug would be offered, nor when the price reduction would take place. To date, the company has not yet lowered the price of the drug.

The New York Times has reported that the New York attorney general has begun an inquiry into Turing Pharmaceuticals. The inquiry is not based on the price increase itself. The attorney general is looking into whether Turing has violated antitrust rules by attempting to restrict competition by taking the drug off the regular distribution channels. This would make it much harder for companies which make generics of drugs to acquire a sample of Daraprim, thus preventing the generic companies from copying the drug and making new generic versions of Daraprim.

The current debate about the topic of Turing’s actions includes those who advocate government regulation of pharmaceutical drug pricing. Would this be taking government involvement too far? Would this reduce the incentive for pharmaceutical companies to spend money on new drug development?

Should pharmaceutical drug pricing be regulated by the government? Assuming that Turing Pharmaceuticals did not in fact violate any antitrust laws and simply raised the price of Daraprim, is this unethical?



Ethical Discussions: De-Extinction

This summer’s release of the movie Jurassic World brought to mind not only the original 1993 hit Jurassic Park, but the subject of de-extinction, the process of “bringing back” species which have become extinct. There has been much debate recently regarding the ability to succeed in resurrecting extinct animal species as well as the ethical implications of doing so. In particular, there is great interest among scientists and the media regarding the possibility of resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth.

Before examining the ethical implications, it makes sense to ask the question: Do we have the ability to resurrect extinct species? The answer is perhaps, but not exactly. In the 1990’s, scientists developed somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). SCNT was used to produce the first mammal cloned from an adult cell nuclei, a sheep named Dolly, in 1996.

Most recently, there has been much talk about resurrecting the extinct wooly mammoth. Can cloning be used to resurrect the mammoth? Not exactly. To “clone” a mammoth, scientists would have to be able to create an animal with the complete mammoth genome, mammoth cells and mammoth chromosomes. This is not possible, since only fragments of DNA from mammoths have been recovered. However, scientists will be able to create an animal genetically close to a mammoth by using an elephant as a “surrogate”. This would be accomplished by inserting genes from a mammoth into the elephant genome. This would create an elephant which would have traits from the mammoth, such as cold resistant blood and thick hair. These traits would enable the animal to live in the Arctic as the mammoths once did.

Although the de-extinction of the wooly mammoth is receiving much attention in the press, the de-extinction of another animal is perhaps more likely to come first. Scientists have already successfully mapped the genome of the passenger pigeon, which was a keystone species in North America. The passenger pigeon was made extinct due in large part to hunting and the effects of deforestation. The species became extinct in 1914 when the last passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati zoo. At the peak of its population numbers there were four to five billion passenger pigeons in the eastern part of North America and the Midwest. A single migrating flock could cover the sky to the point that it would darken the sky itself for over 180 square miles. These large flocks of travelling pigeons could actually take days to pass over an area. According to one estimate, the pigeons made up 40% of the bird population in North America. Their effect on the environment was substantial, and the effect of their loss was significant as well.

It appears that we are getting very close to being able to be successful at de-extinction of some now extinct species. This brings to mind another question – should we do so?

Proponents of de-extinction have several arguments in favor of bringing back extinct species aside from the sheer wonder (and that is no small factor) of being able to bring back animals such as the woolly mammoth:

  1. They argue that humans have been responsible for the extinction of many species in last 10,000 years and that therefore we have a moral obligation to fix some of the damage that we have created.
  2. Proponents also state that resurrecting extinct species will restore biodiversity.
  3. De-extinction will restore and preserve ecosystems which have been harmed by the loss of species. Some extinct species, such as the passenger pigeons, were important keystone species in their areas of the world. Restoring these species would help restore some of the ecological diversity which has been lost.
  4. Finally, proponents of de-extinction see it as a chance for the young people of this generation and those to come to see amazing animals which were once extinct. They envision this as an opportunity to create new interest in the environment

There are scientists and conservationists who argue against the idea of de-extinction.

  1. The first of these arguments is that there will be no place for these animals to live outside zoos. The disappearance of these species caused significant changes in the environment. Their habitat no longer exists in the way that it did before these species became extinct.
  2. Some conservationists argue that if people know that we can bring back extinct species, protecting the existing environment now may not seem so crucial.
  3. A concern is that it would be very difficult to have genetic diversity in the population of a species we brought back from extinction. It is one thing to create a few new member of a species. It is a much more complicated and difficult endeavor to create enough animals with diverse genes in sufficient numbers to ensure genetic diversity for that population.
  4. With many species on the verge of extinction, there is an argument that the amount of money which would be spent on de-extinction would be better spent on preventing the loss of species which now exist.
  5. Finally, de-extinction would actually be creating a genetically modified species. There could be unintended consequences to the environment should these species be introduced. They could interfere with and compete with existing species in the same way that an invasive species causes problems to the environment.

If we do in fact have the capability to be successful at de-extinction of some now extinct species, should we do so?

Is it ethical to use technology to resurrect a now extinct species?


6th Annual Keith Goree Lecture: Dennis Prager at the Palladium

prager picture and headline

The Applied Ethics Institute of St. Petersburg College 6th Annual Keith Goree Lecture presents Speaker Dennis Prager. Mr. Prager will be speaking on Questions of Good and Evil at the Palladium Theater on October 22, 2015 at 7pm.

Students and faculty who wish to attend the Ethics Forum at the Palladium featuring Dennis Prager may receive a free ticket in advance.

Mr. Prager is host of The Dennis Prager Show, a nationally syndicated columnist, a bestselling author, and a worldwide lecturer on a variety of topics including personal and social issues, morality, and religion. He has appeared on Larry King Live, Hardball, Hannity & Colmes, CBS Evening News, The Today Show, and many others. You can listen to Mr. Prager on AM 860 The Answer, Monday through Friday  from noon to 3 pm.

Students and faculty who wish to attend the Ethics Forum at the Palladium featuring Dennis Prager may receive a free ticket in advance by visiting the link below.

**There are a limited number of free tickets.

The link below automatically fills in a Promotional Code. A student or faculty member must fill in their first and last name and email address. Then they can select one Student Admission ticket.

PLEASE NOTE: In addition to signing up for the free ticket, STUDENT OR FACULTY ID IS REQUIRED AT THE DOOR.

Ethics in Popular Culture – Fall 2015

Interested in taking another Ethics course?

Coming in Fall 2015: PHI 2624 – Ethics in Popular Culture and Entertainment (3 credit  hours)
Movies, Television, Music and College Credit all in one!popcorn 2

Online Course – Section #882
*This course does not require you to purchase a textbook.
*This is not a Gordon Rule Course.
*You must have taken an Ethics course previously.

For further information: Contact Dr. Nicholas Manias, Instructor.
791-2730 or